…FG can’t meet lecturers’ demand –Presidency
By our reporters
Academic activities in most university campus across the country remained paralysed, yesterday, as the industrial action declared by the national chapter of the Academic Staff of Union of Universities (ASUU) entered it second day.
Prior to the commencement of what the union tagged “total, comprehensive and indefinite” strike on Monday, the national body of ASUU had last week Thursday directed all its chapters in public universities to conduct a referendum on whether to resume its suspended strike or not. Results of the referendum conducted were collated and sent to the headquarters of the union in Abuja for a final decision. The outcome of the referendum is the ongoing strike.
However, hope that the industrial action would be resolved soon has been dashed, as the Presidency said the Federal Government may not be able to meet the huge financial obligation the striking dons were asking for.
According to the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, in an interview on a live television’s programme, yesterday: “Governments enter into agreements that they can pay for. Ability to pay is a key requirement in going into agreements.
“Since President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office, he has sent words out there in form of a warning to all government institutions that, ‘please do not go into negotiations and agreements that you cannot pay for. Get the clearance.’
“I understand they are talking about debts owed their members to the tune of N850 billion. If I am correct, the entire appropriation for the Ministry of Education for this year is N369 billion. So, where do they want to get the money from?”
Meanwhile, the University of Ibadan chapter of ASUU, has inaugurated a monitoring committee to enforce compliance.
The committee inaugurated by the chapter chairman, Dr. Deji Omole, and headed by Prof. Gbenga Olujide, is empowered to ensure that no member of the union engaged in anything that could jeopardise the collective interests of the union while the strike lasts.
All examinations in the university and other academic activities, including inaugural lecture, stand suspended, Omole said.
At the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, (FUNAAB) and the state-owned Olabisi Onabanjo University, (OOU), Ago-Iwoye, there was total compliance.
At the Alabata Campus of the FUNAAB, it was discovered that undergraduate students were presently on semester break, but lecturers, in compliance with the ASUU directive, refused to teach the postgraduate students.
Chairman of ASUU, Dr. Adebayo Oni, said his members were not allowed to engage in any academic activity including teaching or organising seminars.
He added that they were also not allowed to host or attend any conference or statutory meeting.
“The strike had been successful in our institution because our members have abided by the directive from the national body and we have also enforced it here,” Oni submitted.
Also, the ASUU chairman of OOU, Dr. Deji Agboola, who said members voted to join the action at the branch congress yesterday, boasted that the strike was total and would until their demands were met. He, equally, noted that OOU could not afford not to be part of the industrial action since it was a directive from the national body.
But efforts to get the union chairman of Tai Solarin University of Education (TASUED), Ijagun, Dr. Bayo Akinsanya, on phone proved abortive as he neither picked his calls nor replied message sent to him.
At the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, the strike recorded partial compliance as some lecturers were seen participating in the conduct of the ongoing first semester examinations and going about their normal work. But others boycotted academic activities and refused to participate in the supervision of the exams.
Chairman of ASUU, Professor Caleb Borisade, said the union had declared the strike but could not confirm whether members who had not joined would join later and the number of members that have joined.
“Those that are in support have boycotted academic activities and have not been participating in the conduct of the ongoing exams. They did not participate in the exams today (yesterday) also. But those who are not in support participated. Whether they will join later or not is what I cannot confirm now,” Aborisade said.
The Public Relations Officer, Biodun Olarewaju confirmed that examinations held without any disruption.
“We are in exam mood. Exams are conducted by administrators and lecturers. Some of the lecturers participated fully yesterday. That is all I can say,” Olarewaju said.
At the Osun State University (Uniosun), the ongoing second semester exams started late on Monday when the strike started. A student who preferred anonymity lamented that they could not write the exams.
Another student also confirmed that the examinations that were supposed to start by 9am, yesterday, started around 11am.
However, the Vice Chancellor, Professor Labode Popoola, could not confirm whether the strike had actually taken off or not.
“No comment. I can only say that as a principal officer, I cannot strike. It is not a thing of joy at the moment. It is very unfortunate for us as a people and as a country,” he said.
The strike also recorded partial compliance at the University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT), Choba. While some students received lectures on Monday and yesterday, others did not.
A Sociology student, who did not want to be mentioned, said they were supposed to have classes yesterday, but the lecturers failed to turn up. Also, no lecture held in the History Department. But, students in Economics Department, 300 Level, said they had lectures. They told Daily Sun that the strike has started affecting them, because no lecturer was willing to listen to any academic complaint from them.
Investigations by Daily Sun showed that lecturers of the state-owned Rivers State University (RSU), Nkpolu and Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Rumuolumeni, Port Harcourt, backed out of the strike.
At RSU, lecturers said they had no issues with the state government and were not bound by the position of ASUU in Federal Government-owned universities.
Hopes of most final year students that ASUU of the Federal University, Otuoke (FUO), Bayelsa, would delay in joining the strike have been dashed thereby putting on hold their project defence, as the union leader, Dr. Umoro at a congress he presided over, said the union would stand with the national body.
Similarly, academic activities were paralysed at the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA) and the Ondo State government-owned Adekunle Ajasin University (AAU), Akungba Akoko, as lecturers at the two universities complied fully with directive of the national leadership of the union.
At FUTA, an emergency congress of ASUU was held for the better part of the day. Though the meeting was still ongoing at the time of filing this report, it was gathered that the congress deliberated on the strike and resolved to join.
Chairman of FUTA, Dr Bola Oniya did not pick several calls put across to his mobile telephone or replied text message sent to him.
In Bzayelsa State, at the state-owned Niger Delta University (NDU), the issue of the strike was being discussed as the lecturers were yet to join the industrial action at press time. However the Chairman of ASUU, Dr. Stanley Ogoun said NDU would join the strike tomorrow after its congress.
At the Sokoto State University, there was total compliance, as Dr. Attahiru Sifawa said the local ASUU chapter was in agreement with the directives from the national headquarters.
But normal activities were on at the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, also in Sokoto, as the students were seen writing their examination.
An ASUU official who pleaded for anonymity, said the union would make its stand known today.
Efforts to contact Dr. Laval Argungu, ASUU zonal co-ordinator for Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfara states on the level of compliance with the directives within his zone was not successful.
However, lecturers at the Delta State University (DELSU) distanced themselves from the action.
Chairman of the DELSU chapter, Prof. Abel Diaparomre said they were not part of the processes that culminated into the latest strike.
“DELSU is not on strike. ASUU is a democratic union, we were not part of the decisions at all. The referendum which the national leadership of ASUU claimed to have conducted across the various chapters was not done here at DELSU. We were not informed about what they did, we are not part of it. As we speak, academic staff of DELSU are not on strike,” Diakparomre said.
Former chairman of ASUU in the university, Dr. Emmanuel Mordi who corroborated Diakparomre, however, added that the national leadership of ASUU did not recognise the election that produced the present leadership of DELSU-ASUU.
Commissioner for Higher Education, Mr. Jude Sinebe also affirmed that lecturers at the state-owned university were not part of the strike but added that the institution was not in session.
“As we speak, DELSU is not in session, we will be resuming another session by next month and October. I call on our students to be calm and wait patiently for resumption,” Sinebe said.
At the Lagos State University, (LASU), Ojo, Lagos, it was party galore as activities marking the 2017 Students Union week were in full swing.
President of the Students Union Government (LASUSUG), Kappo Samuel Olawale, who said the programme, which commenced last Monday was running despite the ASUU strike, decried the strike, even as he urged the Federal Government to urgently address the demands of the striking lecturers.
The strike was yet to begin at the University of Uyo, at press time, as staff and students were still going about their normal business, when Daily Sun visited the campus.
However, students population was scanty as most regular students had finished their examinations, while their part-time counterparts were still writing.
A lecturer in the Department of Survey, Itoro Ben, said the local ASUU has scheduled a meeting for today where final decision on the issue would be taken.
Edidiong Uye, director of transport in the Students Union Government said the strike “is not really effective” but Idongesit Isaac, a final year student of Linguistics lamented the absence of senior lecturers in her department, which she said had affected the scheduled defence of her project.